The Florida mailman who managed to land a gyro-copter Wednesday on the U.S. Capitol lawn in an effort to make the members of the Congress aware that the current campaign financing system is a threat to the bare foundations of the U.S. democracy was charged Thursday with two federal crimes, but was allowed to return to his home.
Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security Secretary, said that the man went undetected because he literally flew his tiny aircraft under the radar. If he was indeed detected most probably security would have shot him down and asked questions later.
However, Washington is concerned that Capitol currently faces several security risks that may lead to similar incidents which may be orchestrated by real terrorists. The Florida man’s gyro-copter was meticulously analyzed by a bomb squad but no threat was found.
Douglas Hughes, 61, was charged Thursday with operating an unregistered aircraft and violating a no-fly zone. He currently risks up to four years in prison and a fine. Authorities concluded that he was not a threat and released him from custody. He is currently in Florida, on home detention.
The judge who set him free also ordered him to stay away from any aircraft, to not come to Washington, DC, unless he’s required for court visits, and to keep a distance from the U.S. Capitol and White House while he is in the city.
Mr. Hughes’ stunt was designed to convince members of Congress of the necessity of a campaign finance reform, but it seems that the message is already overlooked as people’s attention is drawn to the unique method of delivering it.
Although, his stunt did no harm to anybody nor did it damage any buildings, plus it was performed in full daylight, Homeland Security has some explanations to make as several lawmakers want to know how the man remained undetected as he flew his gyro-copter from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Capitol Hill.
Furthermore, members of the Congress became even more nervous when they learned that the U.S. Secret Service had interviewed Hughes in 2013 about his plans to land a lightweight craft near one of the federal buildings in Washington, DC in an apparent protest.
However, the U.S. Secret Service considered that he was no real threat in 2013 so it let him go.
Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland told reporters Thursday that there was a dangerous gap related to our airspace. He also expressed his concern that people may believe after this Wednesday’s incident that they can land just about anywhere. Plus, Mr. Cummings argued that if a bomb was on that gyro-copter a major catastrophe would have happened.
Other members of the Congress described the incident as “stunning,” while Michael McCaul, the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, expressed his willingness to hold hearings.
“These small aircraft or UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) devices concern me because they could go undetected and cause damage, so that’s something we’re taking a look at,”
Mr. McCaul added.
On the other hand, Jeh Johnson told reporters that it was too soon to tell whether strengthening the security on Capitol Hill was an absolute necessity. He also said that the U.S., as a democracy, needs to find a balance between living in a free society and the security of federal buildings.
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